Originally published by NPR, as part of their series ‘Discipline And Women In Prison’.
Mary Kathleen "Kathy" Tyler, an 82-year-old woman incarcerated at Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, was sentenced to life in prison in 1978. She is an avid reader, artist and pianist; is employed as a court reporter; and has accumulated a handful of degrees since she was incarcerated.
Tyler combs out her hair in the shared bathroom around the corner from her cell.
Tyler stays connected to what's happening in the world by reading The New Yorker. She also reads The New York Times and avidly watches CNN.
Tyler holds a photo of her younger self taken in the early 80s.
Tyler has been incarcerated for almost half her life. She says reforms led by Warden Sheryl Dahm to reduce punishments for minor rule violations have improved her life in prison.
Tyler found a passion for art 10 years ago. She donates her paintings for church fundraisers and sometimes sends her art out as gifts. Although she isn't fond of roosters she does enjoy drawing them.
Tyler watches CNN daily in her room.
Tyler holds a small rosary in her cell. Raised Roman Catholic, she is an active member of the prison chapel. “I know I’m going to die in prison, and so Dr. Cook has promised me that he would say the prayer over me when he pronounces me dead.”
Tyler walks to the cafeteria for lunch.
Tyler reads in her cell. “I don’t worry about getting a discipline; I don’t worry about not being listened to. I have peace.”
Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, Iowa houses 888 women in various stages of incarceration.
The population of women in prison has risen 700% since 1980, yet women going to prison are entering an institution built to control men. One result is that women in prison get disciplined more than men. NPR's Joseph Shapiro investigates the new practice of "gender-responsive corrections." Videography: Jessica Earnshaw for NPR.